It was mid-May, and hairstylist Richard Drews had one last client standing in the way of his birthday trip to Paris. But it wasn’t just any other visitor. Drews had booked a VIP: the U.S. women’s soccer team captain Megan Rapinoe. The champion has depended on Seattle’s White Lodge Studios for cuts and color touch-ups every every eight weeks for the past two years.
“I was flying to Paris that afternoon, and it was the only day she could come in, so that was the time that worked for both us,” Drews told The Daily Beast. “I was already in vacation mode myself. I thought we’d do her bleach and tone and get her set for the World Cup, but she messaged me like, ‘I want to do something different.’”
Rapinoe asked Drews for something “a little punk rock.” Maybe neon. The two consulted, eventually landing on a bubbly, pink lemonade hue. “She very much knows her style and what she wants to do,” Drews explained. “But she just let me come up with some options and then said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
Almost exactly eight weeks later, Rapinoe led Team USA to World Cup victory. With her pastel hair, outspokenness, and penchant for power posing, Rapinoe has stormed her way into the hearts of many, like a fearless, lesbian Twilight Sparkle from My Little Pony. Though Drews’ dye job has faded from its original vibrant fuchsia, it has captured the attention—and thirst—of Americans everywhere.
“I’m dying my hair purple. Let’s go!” the actor Zac Efron tweeted during the World Cup. As of press time, Efron has yet to honor this pledge. But Rapinoe fans wait for no man.
With each USA match victory, more women took to Twitter vowing they would swan-dive into a vat of Manic Panic in solidarity with the team captain.
One of them is Kaitlyn Adams, a managing editor and assistant to the writer Roxane Gay, who lives in Los Angeles. On a whim after the final game, Adams saw a friend write on Instagram stories that she would dye her hair. “I was like, ‘Let’s fucking go,’” Adams, 30, wrote in an email. The next day, she drove to Ulta and bought a semi-permanent dye.
“Unfortunately, [the dye] gave my hair only the tiniest hint of pink,” Adams admitted. But she has no regrets. “I want [Rapinoe purple] to be a trend so people start showing up to NSWL games and WNBA games and supporting these athletes all the time. The last thing I want us to forget about [is] how great women athletes are in the four years between World Cups,” she wrote.
Chrissie Heavenridge, 34, lives in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, and also sports the look. The office manager and freelance graphic designer has dyed her hair since age 14. Before the World Cup, Heavenridge had settled on a midnight blue hue. As it faded, it resembled Rapinoe’s iridescent color.
“I watched the first game of the World Cup and saw Rapinoe’s hair, and I realized that we were kind of matching,” Heavenridge wrote. “The next time I dyed my hair, I attempted to get [her color]. I’m a huge soccer fan and was already a big fan of Rapinoe’s, so it was a happy coincidence.”
Jillian Sayre, an assistant English professor at Rutgers University in Camden, has had pink hair for a year and a half; she said compliments have increased since the World Cup.
“I think the pink, butch hair [is] in some way an expression of my comfort and security in the weird person I am,” Sayre explained. “I hope that with it being connected to someone as awesome as Megan Rapinoe, more people will take the pink plunge.”
Sayre added: “It is a lot of upkeep, though. A lot.”
No one knows that more than Drews. “This is probably not what hairdressers should be telling people, but I’ll be honest: because she was going to be [abroad] for a long period of time, I basically told her how to refresh the color herself,” he said.
Drews gave Rapinoe a tube of color-depositing conditioner and told her to use it on the road. “It’s not ideal, but ultimately it turned out awesome.” Eagle-eyed fans noticed on that during the final game Rapinoe’s purple looked more intense; Drews believes that is because layers of the conditioner built up in her hair, darkening it.
Rapinoe’s always-in-place pixie seems to live by its own gravity-defying rule of aerodynamics. Drews believes that the coloring process helps her hair stay put during high-impact games. “Anytime you bleach hair, it tends to become fairly moldable, and she can hold it in place even when you’re constantly running around.” (A good pomade or hairspray probably helped too, Drew guessed.)
Drews’ colleague Leonardo Coronado has cut Rapinoe’s hair for “five or six years” and has grown close to her in that time. “She’s in every four weeks, so you start looking at her like a family member,” Coronado said. “I’m just so proud of her, and I am protective over her.”
“I think that everyone is just really proud,” Coronado went on. “That’s the word that goes around the salon. It’s not about her hair, it’s about what she’s doing. Everything happened to her at the right time.”
Just before the World Cup, Rapinoe said she dreams of being a fashion designer when she “grows up,” and both stylists think she has the chops to go for fashion gold, too.
“I describe her as a Jil Sander, very street, but high fashion kind of style,” Drews mused. “Even when she comes to the salon, she has the coolest jacket or piece, but it’s always utilitarian.”
Rapinoe will return to a White Lodge salon chair next week. Drews has no idea what that next session might bring—other than a welcome home celebration. “We’ll have some flowers,” he said. “I’m gay, but I have a huge girl crush on Megan Rapinoe. She’s such a boss, and to see her thrive under pressure like that is incredible.”
In a poignant essay published last week, Rapinoe’s partner, Sue Bird, wrote that she was initially “against” the pink.
“I’ll let Megan and Sue figure that out,” Drews said. “But I think the hair was just a piece of armor for her to take into that battle.”